The idea that humans are by nature creative traces back as far as the ancient Greeks. Aristotle, a student of Plato and Alexander the Great’s teacher, considered creativity a gift from the gods.
In an age defined by technological innovations, creativity is prized more than ever. However, where does creativity originate? In one moment, there’s a blank page; in the next, an idea.
Now that we have an idea, what should happen next? Once we’ve considered it thoroughly and, maybe, consulted trusted people, it’s time to do something with it. This is where fear of failure sets in.
Failing can be frightening, even more so than sharing our ideas in front of peers. Money, pride, time, and many other very real factors are involved. We could fail, and nobody wants that to happen. Right?
For many, that assumption is incorrect! Numerous studies are available of interviews with successful, creative people, business executives, and others who said the same thing. Failure can be our best friend. It can be a key attribute to success.
Someone reportedly said that failure was the father of determination. To reach our greatest level of success, we first must hit rock bottom. We must persist through failure to be successful. The point is that failure breeds success.
The whole concept of failure is a myth. There is no such thing as failure. If we deconstruct the situation, ask big questions, squeeze every ounce of wisdom out of the experience, failure simply becomes the feedback. Then we can take what we learned, stir more creativity into the mix, and try again. If we skip past the fears that cause us to avoid failure, our results lead to success.
Creativity is a gift that each of us possesses. We can point it in any direction or nowhere at all. We can focus creativity on our personal lives, our work, children, etc. They’re all good areas that can benefit from our creativity and choosing to apply this gift in those situations is our choice.
There’s an even deeper truth, however. When we understand it, everything changes! For our creativity to shine, it must align with who we really are and what really matters to us.
In 1953, Rocket Chemical Company’s staff of three, led by Norman Larsen, worked diligently in their small San Diego lab to create a rust preventive solvent for use in the aerospace industry. They failed thirty-nine times! On the fortieth try, success! WD-40 was born after numerous failed attempts. WD-40 was successful in its aerospace application, and customers demanded the product for other commercial uses!
The story is but one of persistence as people work through failure. Learning from previous attempts and fighting through fear of more failures is critical. Consider the following three practices, which could be helpful.
Know thyself: A motto reportedly carved on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi about 2,500 years ago. If it was true then, it’s still true today! To tap deeply into our creative self, we must know ourselves well enough to bolster the strength to overcome fear.
Slow down: When we disconnect from all the distractions and focus our attention, something changes within us. For many this will take some practice, but we can slow ourselves down through meditation, taking long walks, and turning off electronic devices.
Everyone has experienced occasions when great ideas surfaced while taking a shower, waiting in long lines, taking a coffee break, or sitting in traffic. That’s no accident. It’s because we’ve given our brains time to relax, which is often when the creative juices flow.
The problem is that these moments aren’t planned. Think about what might happen if we intentionally cultivated time and space to foster creativity.
Deal with negativity: Especially in the workplace, expect to hear negative responses. Just remember, however, that going along with the crowd is rarely the best path forward. It takes courage to face our fears.
We need to find strength to rally ourselves toward the deep truth of our creativity, to know ourselves, and to slow down enough to let our ideas flow. When we follow these practices, the naysayers will have a difficult time disrupting our creativity.
When our creativity clearly benefits business processes, product designs, quality, efficiency, profitability, and other key outcomes, the value of creativity and innovation will be revealed.
Maybe the future will shift. Perhaps our future culture won’t be so serious. Maybe we will learn to embrace failure. Until then, don’t let fear inhibit creativity or be influenced by naysayers.
We need to be bold to tap into the truth of ourselves and experience success. We should not let others dictate our path to achieving what’s important or how to get there.